06 November 2009 | Maryland,Virginia,North Carolina
The ICW is a different navigational challenge. The channels are narrow, there are areas that are shallow and sometimes the markers are confusing. An error means you are aground.
Well the first challenge is the bridges. They open on varied time scheduled. Some on demand, some on the hour, some on the half hour and some, it seems, when the bridge tender thinks it appropriate. We start the gauntlet. The first bridge opened on the half hour and we made the 8:30 lift. Then came the "miracle" of a tug and barge. Usually a tug and barge constitutes a hazard to beware of. In this case it was a benefit. All bridges open for commercial traffic. We closely followed the tug and made it through the bridges without a delay or wait. Finally the tug went into a gravel dock area, and we were left to confront the final obstacle of the day. It was the lock at Great Bridge. We had never done a lock before.
As we approached the lock Jerie prepared the lines. The idea is to tie your boat to the side of the lock and adjust as the water level changes. Well, we get into the lock, Jerie hands the lines to an attendant, and we wait the drop. I am in the process of explaining what she must do during the drop when the lock attendant announces the drop is over and we should prepare to leave. So much for procedure.
There is a dock at Great Bridge and we tied up for the evening. Other boats were already there and we began to meet the people who are going south. Mary Lou and Bob Cuthbert son who became friends, John a retired Navy senior chief, and Rick and Mary, a couple of cruisers who have already been around the world. We had drinks with Rick and Mary and they gave us a short course in single side band operations and cruising the islands of the Caribbean.
The next day we began the trip down the ICW. The good news is that the ICW is fascinating. Swamps and marshland with all the attendant wild life make the journey really enjoyable. We would go through small towns nestled by the banks and see isolated homes on the waterway. It is the part of the experience not to be missed. We anchored in a creek that emptied into the waterway. No wind blew and the night sounds that came to us as the evening wore on raised a new level of consciousness. The stars were glorious.
The bad news is that to navigate the waterway you have to be spot on the channel. In Virginia and North Carolina it gets real shallow only a few feet off the marked channel. Woe to the mariner who is not concentrating on his navigation. There were more than a few boats that "touched". At the end of the day, the crew is tired from the strain.